If you search for the word "grille" on the dictionary, what you will get is a definition that says "a grating forming a screen or barrier, or an ornamental one found at the front end of the automobile". Depending on who you are talking to, some would say that modern cars can have one or two grilles, one on top of the other.
But if you speak with Porsche, they will say that the grille refers to the upper part, while the lower one is called the air intake. And if there’s only one section then that is an air intake. With that being said, does it mean that all Porsche cars do not have grilles?
During the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show, Road and Track magazine had the chance to speak with Volkswagen's head of design, who is also Porsche's chief designer Michael Mauer. While being interviewed, Mauer dropped a bombshell that was in relation to the grille. He mentioned that all Porsche vehicles only have air intakes, instead of grilles, because there is only one structure. Apparently, if there is only one opening on the car’s face, this automatically becomes the “lower” section, making it an air intake.
This fascinating discussion started when Porsche started building cars with rear engines, because then they did not need to design the cars with a large opening up front. Therefore, a traditional grille was never a key Porsche design feature. But today, Porsche has actually been building models with engines up front, but still, the no-grille design they are accustomed to remains, according to Mauer. He then added that it has been challenging to maintain the same look sans the opening up front, which the engine needs. And this is probably why the Cayenne and Macan have awkward styling features.
If you feel like Mauer’s argument is too firm, and that this is going nowhere, then you are not alone. The dictionary itself says that a grille is a grating of metal bars and wires, placed in front of something to allow airflow - and it did not specify whether this had to be on the upper or lower part. Also, by looking at the Cayenne’s face, there is actually a defined “lower” section. Furthermore, there are many other vehicles that only have one opening, and we can assure you that anyone would refer to this opening as a grille. A good example would be the 1957 Ford Thunderbird or a new Ram 1500.
Whether you would like to call it a grille or an air intake, it is all up to you and it doesn’t really matter. But what is important is the fact that we now understand Porsche’s design philosophy, and it is quite interesting to say. It is actually their unique design that sets them apart from the others.